I remember reading an article last month about “unconditional love.”
The title piqued my interest. It was my 51st birthday, and if there ever was a time that I felt primed and ready for unconditional love, this was it. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any pragmatic advice to use. It said something about learning to come into vibrational alignment with my inner being and clearing away my unwanted energy.
Not for nothing, but I wasn’t really sure what any of that meant. I have to confess; I was looking for something I could really sink my teeth into. Something less esoteric like “go to the supermarket at 11 a.m. next Sunday and wait by the Nilla Wafers. She’ll be the one with the blue, stripey shirt.”
So, I just x-ed out of the article and went to work.
A few days later, I wrote my own article that concluded by saying that my love story ends with finding no one and living happily ever after.
I was not joking. I was not feeling sorry for myself. I was finally coming to accept the very thing that I refused to accept for much of the first 50 years of my life: the fact that happiness, for me, was not going to come from someone else. It was a protracted and arduous journey to finally get to that place in a real way.
Recently I heard this old REM song called “You Are The Everything.” It brought me back to my sophomore year in college when my roommate and I were stoned and listening to what songwriter Michael Stipe was pointing out: the fact that everything in that present moment was perfect just as it was. Unfortunately, there was not enough pot on planet Earth to get me to truly embrace this idea. I had years and years of the worst in western world programming to shed—it was going to take a little more than a well-produced song and sticky hydroponic to get there.
As a matter of fact, when I wrote that article I mentioned—the one about finding no one and living happily ever after—it was almost 30 years since that night in my dorm room. It took two decades of substance use, losing half my large intestine, and a few near-death experiences to get back to Michael Stipe’s truth.
And it is that very truth that prepared me for my first experience with giving love unconditionally. This coming to embrace the truth went light-years past knowing. I “knew” when I was lying in that dorm room but knowing something intellectually is bullsh*t. It was all of those experiences I mentioned that brought me into the emotional acceptance of it—when I finally understood that “all you hear is time stand still in travel/ and feel such peace and absolute.”
Ironically, as all of this began to unfold for me a decade ago, my lover had her own experiences that finally shaped her ability to give and accept unconditional love. As a medical professional, she spent a month in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake volunteering with The Haitian Amputee Mothers Alliance.
An entire memoir could easily be created about that experience, but it changed her profoundly. She could no longer hear the common complaints of the average American as anything but outlandish privilege. As she told me one night as we laid in the silent darkness, it wasn’t in a self-righteous way, either. It was something that went beyond that. It was a clear understanding of deprivation and lack that reached levels equal to aggression and violence. People were literally starving to death in the streets.
That wasn’t our only psychic alignment, either. Days before we met—when I published my article about accepting aloneness—she walked with her friend on the trail only half a mile away and explained the very same thing:
“It’d be fine if I never met anyone at this point. If it sounds like I’m making weak justifications, trust that I am not. I am happier not having to worry about my hair and make-up. I am really just craving serenity.”
And so there we were, at the coffee place, days later, with life in all of its ugliness and beauty having prepared us for this strange destiny.
Perhaps this was what the writer was trying to explain when she said that it took vibrational alignment and the clearing away of unwanted energy. It’s quite possible. For myself, though, I need to see it in more practical terms.